Editor’s note: This review contains spoilers and references to all three seasons of Riverdale.
This week’s episode of Riverdale finally felt purposeful and refreshing. Almost every moment was written to aid plot or character development rather than simply existing to add unnecessary drama. For once, the separate storylines felt like they interlinked with common themes such as physically and metaphorically underground organisations with intriguing secrets.
The episode opened with an illuminating light being shone on Archie by the warden and a guard, foreshadowing that many truths will be revealed about the inner workings of Leopold and Loeb juvenile detention that none of Archie’s loved ones can investigate as he was refused visitor’s rights after the supposed ‘riots’. Archie refuses to be the next inmate chosen for the warden’s schemes but eventually gets kidnapped and taken to an underground fighting pit where he is savagely forced to fight for winner’s prison privileges. His fight scenes are effectively shot in very slow motion to emphasise, the gory reality of the situation, and the heavy psychological impact of being forced to harm others.
At one point before his second fight that the warden asks him to lengthen to excite spectators, he hallucinates and sees his Dad in the cell, telling him to find a way of doing the right thing by putting on a show. The importance of Fred’s words of wisdom is highlighted through the close-ups of his face, conveying the scale to which the hallucination mirrored reality in Archie’s eyes. Trying to take the advice he imagined Fred giving, Archie fights more weakly and then beats his opponent in a staged final blow. This triumphant win makes Archie the new “Mad dog” meaning he has access to requested food, alcohol and books. Firstly, the warden gives him a bottle of rum with a Lodge label on it, which serves to remind both him and the viewers that his girlfriend’s villainous Father was the main drive towards his imprisonment and he still remains in control over how he is treated. In fury, Archie smashes the bottle against the wall and has some intense flashbacks to Hiram’s detrimental involvement in his trail while the overwhelming diegetic sounds echo.
Amongst the reflective pieces of shatters glass, he finds a copy of The Count of Monte Cristo which is particularly emblematic because just like Archie, the protagonist Edmond Dantès was wrongly accused of a crime that he did not commit. Additionally, inside the book, he finds a small hammer Mad Dog left hide to remind the rest of the inmates to remain hopeful and chip away until they can escape their entrapment. Archie shares with this with other fighting inmates and they agree to work towards a viable escape plan.
Like Archie’s Dad, Veronica starts to feel frustrated that she cannot help Archie be freed and almost postpones the Speakeasy’s opening. However, Betty reminds her that her boyfriend would not want her to put her ambitions on hold for him, so she finally has the basement grand opening. Josie performs the eerie meaningful song “Anything Goes” in a sound bridge suggesting that the world has changed and so have the lives of Riverdale residents as we watch Archie fight for survival. This timing also reinforces how worried Veronica is about Archie’s wellbeing as she expresses a wish that he was there to dance with her- unaware about the full extent of the danger he is in.
Meanwhile, Betty has domestic and supernatural problems of her own that are first highlighted in the second scene of the episode in which we see her Mother Alice and FP Jones affectionately laying in bed together while discussing heir children’s latest supernatural suspicions, suggesting they know more than the young couple about the dominance of the Gargoyle King and the related suicides. In a wonderful edited cross cut, we see their respective children snuggling in a similar position discussing how protective their parents have suddenly become recently, which creates a visual and auditory connection between the two couples shown. Therefore the audience becomes very engaged, eager to know when the two sides will confront each other and reveal what they really think about the peculiar board game and the related brutal suicides. This sequence further heightens the audience’s anticipation about the next episode involving The Breakfast Club style flashbacks to the parents’ teen years.
— Mädchen Amick (@madchenamick) October 25, 2018
Betty and Jughead are not willing to give up investigating the deaths or the impact of Griffins and Gargoyles, so after noticing the cunning farm member Evelyn talking to Ethel at school, they decide to question the girls individually in order to build links between the farm and the creepy game. Betty goes to Evelyn’s farm peer support group and tells her she has been having convulsions in an effort to lure information about the farm’s treatments led by Evelyn’s father. Evelyn gives a joyful reaction, seeming almost too pleased that Betty is struggling and needs her help suggesting that she is just as calculative as she appeared to be. When Betty gets home, she accidentally enters a farm meeting and gets invited to give a testimony. To her shock, she finds out that her family’s secrets about the kitchen murder and Chic are unfortunately common knowledge. When she probes her Mother about her knowledge of the game, she says that she would rather confide them in the farm than in her daughter, causing a major rift between them.
Next, we see Jughead and Betty talking about the rules of Griffins and Gargoyles with Ethel who is very defensive about the scripture and states only Jughead is worthy of playing the game and accessing the scripture. When Jughead meets Ethel, he plays the game as the Hellcaster and is required to drink from one of two potentially deadly chalices and then kiss her in order to attain the scripture.
Once he survives, Ethel tries to poison herself by drinking from the deadly chalice and is quickly hospitalised. Jughead keeps the cryptic scripture and shows the symbols to Betty, just before their parents burn the only copy they have stating that the game is more dangerous than they realise. Their children are distraught and are still puzzled by the cult-like mystery.
— Madelaine Petsch (@madelainepetsch) October 25, 2018
However, when back at school, Jughead notices that every student has found the copy of the scripture in their locker- probably organised by Ethel before her planned demise. This rejuvenation of the scripture reiterates its ongoing importance to the wider plot as its popularity grows amongst the teenagers of Riverdale. Finally, we see Ethel address the Gargoyle King about her successful plan, suggesting that she is struggling to focus on reality or that she has supernatural powers to summon him.
Hopefully, we will discover more about FP and Alice’s experiences of the Gargoyle King in the Flashback episode and their comments will become both more coherent and important to the viewers’ understanding.
Featured Image Via @instasuelos